How to reduce your breast cancer risk after 50

You’ll face the highest risk of a breast cancer diagnosis in your entire life once you pass the age of 50, with it steadily increasing every year.

In fact, by your 50s, your breast cancer risk is 1 in 43 and by 60, a scary 1 in 29.

Unfortunately, if you’re overweight, your chances of ending up with cancer may be even higher since high body mass index (BMI) is an established risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer.

But, there is good news…

According to a new study from investigators at the American Cancer Society and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, it’s not too late. You can lower your breast cancer risk significantly post 50 by adopting a weight-loss strategy.

Sustained weight loss

Their research followed more than 180,000 women aged 50 and older from ten separate studies. In fact, this analysis is the first of its kind with a large enough sample size to truly say whether or not losing weight in your menopausal years can impact breast cancer risk.

The team assessed the women’s’ weight three times over approximately 10 years:

  • At study enrollment
  • After about five years
  • Again approximately four years later

And, here’s what they found…

Hands-down, the women who lost weight and kept it off after the age of 50 had a lower risk of breast cancer than women whose weight remained stable. And, the larger the amount of weight loss they sustained, the lower their risk of breast cancer.

Related: Why belly fat fuels cancer growth

Here’s a breakdown of the results:

  • Women who lost between 4 and 10 pounds had a 13 percent lower risk than women with stable weight
  • Women who lost 10- 20 pounds had a 16 percent lower risk
  • Women who lost more than 20 pounds had an absolutely amazing 26 percent lower risk

Yep, if you have 20 pounds or more to lose and you keep it off, you could reduce your breast cancer risk by 26 percent!

Related: Can a low-carb diet keep your body cancer-free?

And, the study also found that even if you lose the weight but don’t keep it all off, there are still benefits…

The team found that women who lost 20 pounds or more and gained some but not all of it back still had a lower breast cancer risk than women who kept a stable weight throughout the study’s timeframe.

“Our results suggest that even a modest amount of sustained weight loss is associated with lower breast cancer risk for women over 50,” said Lauren Teras, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “These findings may be a strong motivator for the two-thirds of American women who are overweight to lose some of that weight. Even if you gain weight after age 50, it is not too late to lower your risk of breast cancer.”

Weight reduction strategies

So, if you want to significantly lower your breast cancer risk post-menopause, losing any extra weight is key.

Here are a few tips to follow:

1. Try going low carb

Carbohydrates, which your body turns into sugar, can become your enemy during the menopausal years when it’s easier to gain weight. By turning to a low-carb diet, you can reduce the gains they can cause and even rid yourself of unwanted pounds.

Related: Can’t choose between low-carb and high-carb? There’s a third option

One study of menopausal women found that a low carb diet resulted in a loss of 12.5 percent of their body fat in just six months.

And, research at the University of Iowa found that postmenopausal could potentially experience better weight loss outcomes on the keto diet than younger women.

2. Add resistance

We all know that if you want to lose weight no matter what your age, you should get regular exercise.

But, after menopause, it’s also vital that you add in resistance and strength training to combat the muscle loss that comes with the hormonal changes you’re experiencing.

But a big plus of resistance training for postmenopausal women is that it decreases risk for metabolic syndrome — of which obesity is a symptom. Studies show that resistance training can not only improve muscle in postmenopausal women but also reduce body fat and improve lean body mass.

You can use free weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises such as lunges, squats, and wall pushups to accomplish this.

3. Watch your sleep

During menopause, many women have trouble getting good quality sleep, which can lead to even higher levels of weight gain.

That’s because when you don’t get enough sleep, the levels of your hunger hormone, ghrelin, go up and your levels of leptin, the hormone that tells you that you’re full, go down.

To enhance your sleep quality, practice good sleep habits such as:

  • Removing electronic devices from your bedroom
  • Dimming the lights an hour before bed
  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends
  • Creating a cool, comfortable sleep environment

If all else fails, see a sleep expert for help.

The thought of the higher risk of breast cancer we all face as we age is a frightening thought. But, with this new research, we now have something we can do about it.

Use the tips above to lose any extra pounds (and keep them off) to dramatically reduce your breast cancer risk after menopause.

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  1. What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer? — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Risk of Developing Breast Cancer —
  3. Large study links sustained weight loss to reduced breast cancer risk — EurekAlert
  4. Weight loss interventions for breast cancer survivors: impact of dietary patternPLoS One
  5. Sixteen weeks of resistance training can decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome in healthy postmenopausal womenClinical Interventions in Aging
  6. Effects of resistance training frequency on body composition and metabolics and inflammatory markers in overweight postmenopausal womenThe Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness
  7. The effects of elastic band resistance training combined with blood flow restriction on strength, total bone-free lean body mass and muscle thickness in postmenopausal womenClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
  8. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass indexPLoS Medicine
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.